- Theresa May and Jeremy Corbyn reportedly could fight another election later this year.
- The outcome of any election will be determined by which party performs best in hundreds of British towns, according to stark new research published today.
- The Conservatives and Labour are neck and neck in small to medium-sized towns like Derby, Bolton and Nuneaton. There was around 1% between the two parties in these communities at the recent local elections.
- Labour is gaining ground in cities and university towns while the Tories continue to make ground in former industrial towns and villages.
LONDON -The next general election will be decided in Britain’s towns according to new research which suggests Labour could struggle to overturn Theresa May’s government in a snap election.
With reports this week suggesting Conservative MPs are preparing for an election in the autumn, new research published on Tuesday suggest any contest will be decided outside of the big cities that have increasingly turned to Jeremy Corbyn’s party in recent years.
The analysis, published by the Centre For Towns think tank, shows that Labour and the Conservatives are currently neck-and-neck in Britain’s small to medium-sized towns. Labour is gaining ground in university towns, while the party’s former heartlands increasingly turn to the Tories.
There was less than 1% between the two parties in medium-sized towns at the recent local elections (Conservatives 38.9%; Labour 38.5%) while in small towns the difference was little more than 1% (Conservatives 38.9%; Labour 40%).
As the chart below illustrates, May and Corbyn are currently locked in a stalemate in hundreds of towns across the country.
While Labour has piled up votes in cities like London and Manchester as well as larger university towns, the Conservatives have been quietly making further ground in villages and former industrial towns with older populations. The Tories were 23-points ahead of Labour in communities of under 100,000 people at this month’s local elections, but behind by 21% in cities, where younger, more liberal-minded voters live.
This means that while the two main parties continue to build on their current voter bases, winning over voters in Britain’s small to medium-sized towns holds the key to unlocking a majority government at the next election.
Key marginal seats in this category include Derby, Bolton and Nuneaton, where the Labour vote has gradually declined in recent years.
Centre For Towns research shows that these towns are home to ageing populations due to significant younger residents moving to cities for work and further education. People often share a strong sense of community, local identity and patriotism, and the growing feeling that they are ignored by metropolitan politics in Westminster.
May and Corbyn might not have long to wait before Brits to go the polls again if recent reports are to be believed.
The Times reported over the weekend that Conservative MPs have told their local parties to expect a general election this autumn amid concern that May’s government could collapse over Brexit negotiations.
Labour MP Lisa Nandy who co-founded the Centre For Towns said the “striking” report should come as a wake-up call both to her party and the Tories in government.
“Traditional politics has been turned on its head. While the Tories are advancing in post-industrial towns, Labour ahead by a clear margin in university towns. These demographic and political shifts pose profound challenges for all political parties,” Nandy said.
“For too long voters in towns have been ignored by Westminster and Whitehall in favour of a city-led model of growth that has failed to deliver in our towns.
Their pivotal role in determining the next election should spark a renewed focus on towns and force Westminster to respond to the very real frustrations being asserted at the ballot box.”
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